Cysteine is a semi-essential amino acid that means the body can make it but in insufficient quantity. To ensure your cysteine levels are adequate, you’ll need to obtain it from food sources or supplements. Cysteine forms one of the building blocks of glutathione – an important antioxidant that can protect your body against possible such as the acrylamide ( a resultant chemical when asparagine is heated).
What are the benefits of Cysteine?
Helps in breaking up mucus thus helps you to remove phlegm. It’s present in the popular drug -carbocysteine that is both available in capsule and syrup form.
- Plays as an antioxidant against free radicals. (1)
- Boost the immune system function (2)
- Benefits diabetic patients by lowering markers of vascular inflammation and glycemia.
- Boost male fertility by introducing N-acetyl-L-cysteine or NAC. 3)
- Reduces the symptoms associated with ulcerative colitis that is a prolonged sore and inflammation in the digestive tract. (4)
- May treat psychiatric disorders such as drug dependence, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and pathological gambling. (5)
- May treat these conditions: colon cancer, asthma, flu, angina and acne.
- Detoxify liver by increasing glutathione levels. (6)
- Plays an important role in the production of taurine – another amino acid used by your body to regulate heartbeat, stabilize cell membraine, and prevent overactivation of brain cell.
- Increase glutathione levels in cells. (7)
- May reduce total lesion counts in acne.
- Improve brain health by increasing glutathione and regulating glutamate. A study showed that NAC may slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.(8)
- May increase fertility for men and women. A decrease in antioxidant level will lead to infertility. In one study, a supplement of 200 mg of selenium and 600 mg NAC improved the quality of semen.
- Improve heart health by preventing free radical’s oxidation. NAC has been shown to increase the production of nitric oxide that is can improve blood flow and dilate veins. Such dilated veins can lower heart attacks and improve blood flow.
- May Improve immune system by restoring natural killer cells, suppressing HIV-1 replication. (9)
What are the food sources?
You can get cysteine through supplements and food sources such as game, pork, egg, cheese yogurt, oat bran and sunflower seeds. On its own, your body can make cysteine only if there’s a sufficient amount of vitamin B12, folate and vitamin B6 that are obtainable from bananas, lentils, liver, salmon and avocado.
The following are the food highest in Cystine.
- Round beef and trimmed of fats
- Beef brisket
- Broiler chicken
- Beef sirloin
- Soy Meal
- Game meat
- Fish burbot
- Soy flour
- Chicken liver
- Fish tuna
- Seaweed and kelp
- Fish (perch)
What are the effects of taking too much cysteine?
Cystine or N-acetyl cysteine (the supplement form) is safe when prescribed for medication. However, if taken beyond the prescription and dosage, it may cause low blood pressure, fever, drowsiness, liver problems, headache and fever. Because there’s not enough info about taking N-acetyl cysteine when you breastfeed, it’s best to avoid it. The following conditions might cause side effects when you take cysteine.
- Allergy: Don’t use them when you are allergic to this drug.
- Asthma: When inhaled, N-acetyl cysteine might cause bronchospasm.
- Bleeding problems: Might raise the incidence of bleeding and
- During and post-surgery: Might increase bleeding during pre and post surgery
What is the recommended dosage?
Because your body can make cysteine, there’s no recommended exact dosage. For sufficient cysteine in your body, you need enough supply of vitamin B12, folate and vitamin B6. Further, you can supplement your diet with NAC in powder, liquid or aerosol spray form. The required dosage for NAC is 600 – 1800 mg. (12)
The Bottom Line
Cysteine is vital to human health because it’s one of the components of amino acids – the building block of protein. If you take cysteine supplements or NAC consult first your doctor especially if you are experiencing some allergies and other ailments.
1- Shackebaei, D, et al. “Mechanisms Underlying the Cardioprotective Effect of L-Cysteine.” Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2005, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16132711.
2- Dröge, W, and R Breitkreutz. “Glutathione and Immune Function.” The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2000, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11115795.
3 – Guijarro, Luis G, et al. “N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine Combined with Mesalamine in the Treatment of Ulcerative Colitis: Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study.” World Journal of Gastroenterology, The WJG Press and Baishideng, 14 May 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2710726/.
4 – Barekat, Foroogh, et al. “A Preliminary Study: N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine Improves Semen Quality Following Varicocelectomy.” International Journal of Fertility & Sterility, Royan Institute, 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4845522/.
5 – Dean, Olivia, et al. “N-Acetylcysteine in Psychiatry: Current Therapeutic Evidence and Potential Mechanisms of Action.” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience : JPN, Canadian Medical Association, Mar. 2011, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3044191/.
6 – Axe, Josh. “Liver Cleanse: Detox Your Liver in 6 Easy Steps.” Dr. Axe, 18 May 2018, draxe.com/liver-cleanse/.
7 – Kasperczyk, Sławomir, et al. “The Administration of N-Acetylcysteine Reduces Oxidative Stress and Regulates Glutathione Metabolism in the Blood Cells of Workers Exposed to Lead.” Clinical Toxicology (Philadelphia, Pa.), U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2013, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23731375.
8 – Mokhtari, Vida, et al. “A Review on Various Uses of N-Acetyl Cysteine.” Cell Journal, Royan Institute, 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241507/.
9. Safarinejad, Mohammad Reza, and Shiva Safarinejad. “Efficacy of Selenium and/or N-Acetyl-Cysteine for Improving Semen Parameters in Infertile Men: a Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Randomized Study.” The Journal of Urology, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19091331.
10 – Anfossi, G, et al. “N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine Exerts Direct Anti-Aggregating Effect on Human Platelets.” European Journal of Clinical Investigation, U.S. National Library of Medicine, May 2001, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11380598.
11 – Dröge, W, and R Breitkreutz. “Glutathione and Immune Function.” The Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2000, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11115795.
12 – Dodd, Seetal, et al. “N-Acetylcysteine for Antioxidant Therapy: Pharmacology and Clinical Utility.” Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Dec. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18990082.